The Seoul Post-2015 Global Development Conference took place on 7 October 2013 in Seoul, Republic of Korea. The conference focused on the theme “Implementation and Implications”, and was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The aim of the conference was to identify trends and challenges for implementation of the post-2015 development framework, and to inform the work of the UNDP, the UN Development Group and the UN Task Team.
Over 234 participants attended the conference, including representatives of governments, civil society and intergovernmental organizations. Conference participants considered lessons and challenges from the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and current discussions shaping the post-2015 development agenda, including the work of the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (HLP), the UN Development Group and the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The one-day event consisted of: a high-level discussion on the post-2015 development framework; two panels on: implementation mechanisms and partnerships in practice, and post-2015 implementation suggestions and challenges ahead; and a closing session on recommendations.
This briefing note summarizes the presentations and discussions held during the conference.
REPORT OF THE MEETING
Opening the Seoul Post-2015 Global Development Conference, H.E. Cho Tae-yul, Second Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea, noted that the MDGs encapsulate the “spirit of an era” and affirm a common understanding that poverty is both a national problem and an international concern. He said there is much to commend about the progress on the MDGs, but that there remain many challenges ahead. He further underscored the importance of moving beyond the discussion about aid effectiveness to focus on development effectiveness, and affirmed the Republic of Korea’s commitment to the process.
Rebeca Grynspan, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator, stated that while there is general consensus that the MDGs brought together a range of partners around a common agenda and generated time-bound and measurable targets, there is still “a long way to go.” She suggested that the financial commitments by developed countries (Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development) remain weak.
Referencing the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, held from 29 November to 1 December 2011 in Busan, Republic of Korea, and the resultant Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, Grynspan underscored the importance of using existing funds more effectively, as well as generating new and innovative sources of funding. She also quoted the Co-Chairs of the HLP in saying that any future framework must be “people-centered and planet-sensitive.”
SESSION 1: HIGH-LEVEL DISCUSSION ON THE POST-2015 CONVERSATION SO FAR
H.E. Kim Sung-hwan, Chair, Institute for Global Social Responsibility and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea, set out the findings of the HLP, which, among other things, proposed a three-level approach to partnerships for the post-2015 development framework, namely: at the national level, to include governmental and other stakeholders; on a thematic level, regarding global issues such as climate change; and collectively, on activities such as monitoring targets, providing feedback, reporting and peer review. He suggested that while official development assistance (ODA) will remain critical, private finance is becoming increasingly important.
Grynspan presented the key findings of a recently released report entitled “A Million Voices - The World We Want,” explaining that it is the result of 88 national consultations, 11 thematic dialogues and an online global survey, and that it is intended to provide participatory inputs to the post-2015 development framework. She argued that civil society will be critical in the implementation of the framework, especially in relation to the report’s top three priority areas, namely: education, health and good governance.
Kilaparti Ramakrishna, Director, East and North-East Asia Office of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, explained that the SDGs will build upon the MDGs and converge with the post-2015 development agenda. Ramakrishna suggested that any new goals should be limited in number, and be universal, implementable, measurable and integrate the three pillars of sustainable development, namely: social, economic and environmental concerns. He highlighted that this next phase represents a “convergence of agendas” and will benefit from the synergies between the processes.
Debapriya Bhattacharya, Centre for Policy Dialogue, and Chair, Southern Voice on Post-MDGs, described implementation as one of the fault lines of the MDGs, suggesting that this was because of, among other things: shortfalls in the accountability mechanism; shortfalls in public expenditure and fiscal space; and inadequate resource flow. Looking ahead, he asked the following questions: will this issue be addressed in the post-2015 agenda; will there be adequate resources to implement the multiple objectives of any post-MDGs targets; and how will countries with special needs fit within a “universal agenda”?
Amitabh Behar, Executive Director, National Foundation for India and Co-Chair, Global Call to Action Against Poverty, praised the inclusivity of the post-2015 process to date, but asked how this broad participation can be retained in the next phase of the process. He suggested five principles for future work: inclusion of otherwise socially-excluded people; gender justice; environmental justice; right to livelihoods, including land, water and forest; and governance accountability at the national level and within the global architecture. Behar suggested that this should be bolstered with indicators on outcomes, processes and inclusion, and concluded by warning against a reliance on private sector financing.
Marilou Uy, Senior Advisor to the World Bank’s Special Envoy on MDGs and Development Financing, World Bank, detailed her main suggestions to governments regarding development financing, including for governments to: generate more domestic revenues; ensure efficient public spending; leverage private resources; maximize the impact of ODA; and collaborate with new development partners, such as exploring South-South partnerships.
SESSION 2: IMPLEMENTATION MECHANISMS AND PARTNERSHIPS IN PRACTICE
Shantanu Mukherjee, UNDP MDG Team Leader, explained that the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF): responds to national and local political determination to tackle identified off-track MDGs; draws on country experiences and ongoing processes to identify and prioritize bottlenecks interfering with the implementation of key MDG interventions; uses lessons learned to determine objective and feasible solutions for accelerating MDG progress; and creates a partnership with identified roles for all relevant stakeholders to jointly achieve MDG progress. He concluded that the MDGs have “unfinished business” and that the MAF promotes effectiveness in the MDG process.
Patrick Kuma Aboagye, Deputy Director and Head, Reproductive and Child Health Department, Ghana, detailed a national MAF programme focusing on MDG 5 on maternal health. He reported that slow progress on this goal led Ghana to develop a dedicated programme, and that this has led to an improvement in maternal health indicators, a fall in maternal mortality, and an increase in the use of modern contraceptives. He noted however that notwithstanding these advances, challenges remain, such as the need for attitudinal changes, basic infrastructure and inter-sectoral coordination.
Vinicius Pinheiro, Deputy Director, International Labour Organization, explained that social protection floors (SPFs) are based on the principle that all people should enjoy at least a minimum level of social security, and that they are a way of ensuring that everyone is included in the post-2015 development framework. Social protection, he explained, can be used to: connect the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development; help enhance policy coherence in the sustainable development framework; and promote the just transition to a greener and more equitable economy. He argued that SPFs are different from ‘safety nets’ that were promoted in the 1990s because they are: permanent; integrated; coherent; holistic; rights-based; grounded in the rule of law; and an integral part of the economic model. He concluded by underscoring that “political will is the game changer.”
Casimiro Abreu, Deputy Director General, National Institute of Disaster Management, Mozambique, presented on the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, highlighting that it is being used to support the implementation and strategic position of the MDGs. He reported that results include the active engagement of UN agencies in disaster reduction activities, particularly in development of arid zones, flood mitigation in urban areas, and cyclone mitigation in coastal areas.
Abreu suggested establishing a disaster risk reduction fund and increasing the role of civil society in disaster reduction management. He concluded by stating that Mozambique will not achieve the MDGs if disaster reduction priorities are not translated into action at all levels.
April Golden, Donor Relations Analyst, Global Partnership for Education (GPE), suggested that while there is widespread support for MDG 2 on universal primary education, there needs to be renewed focus on good quality and equitable education at all levels. She explained that the GPE, among other things: develops education strategies and programmes; shares innovative solutions; monitors education results; and produces relevant data.
Golden further outlined that the GPE is addressing current challenges by: strengthening support to local education groups; improving data collection and monitoring; and supporting civil society through the Civil Society Educational Fund.
The ensuing discussion focused on implementation, monitoring, and the need to ensure political stability at the national level as a basis for achieving the MDGs.
SESSION 3: POST 2015 IMPLEMENTATION SUGGESTIONS AND CHALLENGES AHEAD
Richard Manning, Chair, Institute of Development Studies and Chair, International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, delivered two presentations. In the first presentation, he argued that incentives are required to build competent institutions. In this context, he suggested that: governments need to expose institutions to effective scrutiny; top managers should set clear objectives, and monitor and evaluate performance; and at the staff level, there should be ownership of objectives, appropriate skills and constructive performance reviews.
In his second presentation, Manning suggested that civil society can best encourage progress by: running independent processes; accessing and and using data; monitoring public service delivery; challenging poor and inappropriate policies; and ensuring its own standards and legitimacy.
John Hyde, Chair, Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption – Oceania, contrasted the fact that over US$1 trillion are paid in bribes every year with the estimation that achieving the MDGs would cost US$481 billion. In this context, he underscored his support for a future goal focusing on bribery and corruption, and set out the work on an anti-corruption indicator, which combines: indicators based on perception; an anti-corruption framework, laws and regulations; and practical implementation of anti-corruption practices.
John Gershman, New York University, presented on accountability for development assistance and aid effectiveness. He stated that accountability and effectiveness debates should not be dominated by the aid agenda and argued that the issues are critical to public and private sector institutions.
Gershman called on donors to move beyond transparency, and to support innovations in monitoring, accountability and effectiveness strategies for aid-funded programmes and projects. He concluded by stating that the shift from aid effectiveness to development effectiveness as an overarching framework will depend on active, informed, and mobilized citizens in the North and South.
Gordon Manuain, Office of the Special Envoy on MDGs for the President of the Republic of Indonesia, provided an overview of Indonesia’s progress towards the MDGs. He underscored the fact that peace and security form critical foundations for the three pillars of sustainable development.
As next steps, Manuain suggested that governments committed to ODA could: take the lead in fostering sustainable partnerships with the private sector and civil society to design and develop appropriate development assistance for ODA recipients; and create enabling circumstances for the private sector to engage in social investment through inclusive business that will bolster the achievement of the MDGs.
Chen Shaochun, Counselor, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Korea, reported on China’s approach to the post-2015 development agenda. He stated that there should be a full evaluation of the implementation of the MDGs, and that poverty alleviation must be the focus of any new goals by promoting economic growth in developing countries.
Chen noted that ODA from developed countries is falling, but that South-South cooperation is increasing, and called on developing countries to continue to foster this cooperation.
Ad Melkert, former UNDP Associate Administrator and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq, set out five ‘breakthrough tools’ related to finance development and the role of ODA: challenging the tax taboo to increase the amount of tax collected in developing countries; focusing on existing instruments before exploring new legal or policy approaches; bringing informal workers into the formal sector; reducing structural ODA dependence; and using data to compare and assess progress, such as using the Human Development Index to track the relationships between fiscal programmes and national development.
In the ensuing discussion, participants commented on: the possible architecture of the post-2015 development framework; means to assess future progress; ‘triangular’ cooperation between one developed country and two developing countries; and the MDGs as they relate to disabled people.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND MOVING FORWARD
Ad Melkert summarized the previous session. He argued that there is a need to reduce bribery and corruption, and that problems - not solutions - should dictate capacity building initiatives. He further suggested that governance, long-term finance, and job creation should be central elements of the post-2015 development framework and urged participants to work together towards a political commitment for the next 15 years.
Kate Higgins, Senior Researcher, The North-South Institute, summarized the conference proceedings, underscoring the need to focus on ‘how’ to action the post-2015 development framework. She reemphasized that future goals must be “people-centered and planet-sensitive.”
Rebeca Grynspan called on participants to engage actively with the process to maintain the momentum and ensure its eventual success.
Closing the conference, Oh Young-ju, Director-General for Development Cooperation Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea, affirmed his country’s commitment to the post-2015 development agenda, and thanked the UNDP, participants, speakers, and Rajesh Mirchandani, World Affairs Correspondent, BBC News, who moderated throughout the day.